SAO PAULO (AP) — Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the front-runner so far heading to October’s presidential election, said Tuesday that he would revoke decisions by incumbent Jair Bolsonaro affecting Indigenous peoples, including those that promote mining on their lands.
The leftist leader also pledged to name an Indigenous person as minister for Indigenous affairs should he succeed in winning back the office he held in 2003-2010.
Da Silva told about 7,000 members of Indigenous groups gathered in the capital city of Brasilia that every Bolsonaro “decree that creates problems will have to be revoked immediately.”
“We cannot allow that the achievements coming from your struggle are removed by decrees to give rights to those that think our forests and fauna should end,” da Silva said. “I want to tell you, if we return to the government, nobody in this country will do anything on Indigenous land without your consent, decision or agreement.”
Bolsonaro argues that economic activity should not be hindered by environmental or human rights issues, and he insists the Indigenous themselves would benefit from opening up their areas to mining. Indigenous reserves are often the most protected land in the Amazon, but miners increasingly target them.
The gathering outside Brazil’s congress building drew thousands of people from 200 Indigenous groups in Brazil. They have camped in the region for the past week to put political pressure on lawmakers at a time illegal mining and deforestation are soaring in the South American nation.
Joenia Wapichana, the only Indigenous member of Congress, said Indigenous people need to be protected after Bolsonaro’s measures in recent years, including shifts at FUNAI, the government agency for Indigenous affairs.
“Our rights are being stepped upon,” Wapichana said.
Da Silva’s presidential bid is expected to officially begin May 7, when leaders of his Workers’ Party are scheduled to approve his candidacy.